Health & Science
3:36 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Marquette Receives $2.6 Million Dollar Grant to Research Virtue

Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed that virtue is entrenched state of character, it is dispositional, and it produces virtuous actions that are appropriately motivated and guided by practical reason.
Credit Giovanni Dall'Orto, wikicommons

Lake Effect's Mitch Teich interviews Marquette philosophy professor Nancy Snow.

A Marquette University philosophy professor has been awarded a $2.6 million dollar grant to study the development of virtue.

Professor Nancy Snow, in collaboration with the University Of Notre Dame, will co-direct a project called “The Self, Motivation, and Virtue," funded through the grant from the Templeton Religion Trust. It represents the largest humanities grant Marquette has ever received.

Snow's project will play out over three years and will include researchers from a variety of disciplines, ranging from philosophy and theology to the natural sciences.

Philosophers like Snow say this project is needed in order to clarify virtue for a modern understanding. There are discrepancies between ancient philosophers, like Aristotle, and more contemporary philosophers, like David Hume.

So Snow is researching what constitutes virtue. Are “personality” and “character” the same? Can “self” be a part of virtue?

“But we are also trying to figure out how the self, how what it means to be a person, is implicated in the development of virtue,” she says. “So we need to figure out exactly how it is that virtue takes root in people and how it can grow and be nurtured.”

Snow says the project suggests that self, rather than personality, "is the site of virtue," according to a press release. Whereas she defines self as an absolute that is carried out throughout life, "personality” and “character,” on the other hand, are changeable.

Snow is particularly interested in how virtuous traits develop in children in order to “raise good people.” She aims to implement her research into education programs.

"We are in very early stages of finding out what character and of subsidizing character education," she says. "And everything that we can do to get clearer on that helps to address a rather urgent question – and that is, how can we raise good people?"

Snow hopes this research plants the seed for ten new research projects that include scientific and humanist collaborations.

"Ultimately," Snow says in a press release, "we want to generate an appreciation of what virtue is, the importance of motivation to virtue and how virtue can be cultivated."